In purity and simplicity we trust. And that’s why we love Pinot Noir.
No other red variety ensures such a clear and true expression of terroir. Like a thoroughbred horse mounted by a clumsy rider, Pinot Noir will baulk nervously if handled incorrectly. No fools are suffered. From the over-eager winemaker trying too hard to create art, to the self-proclaimed conquering viticulturalist who plant it on an incorrect site, Pinot Noir will have the last laugh.
Striving for purity tends to bring out the best from the Pinot Noir grape, if my conversations with the winemakers of Volnay, Pommard and Aloxe-Corton is anything to go by. If there is complexity ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ visceral or subtle or poetic ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ it will present itself naturally. Just can’t be forced.
Taste that spirit-like, Grappa-ish whack on some Pinot Noirs? Winemaker tried to punch the grape too much, too hard, too often. Too sad.
Sickly sweet medicinal pong? Well, you’d also smell like a soggy jelly baby if you were drawn of the skins too early in an attempt to be “soft tannined”.
Pure Pinot Noir, that’s the business.
Had it last year with Muratie’s GP Canitz 2010. And with Carlos Hopkins’ De Grendel Oppie Berg 2009.
There were a couple in Burgundy, but name-dropping is so Waspish.
Along comes David Finlayson with something quite pure in the tuning fork sense of the word. The Prince of the Pepper Pot, the Duke of Edgebaston has just released his first Pinot Noir after setting-out by himself at Edgebaston Family Vineyards.
Under his own name, it is: David Finlayson Pinot Noir 2011.
No, the grapes do not come from Finlayson’s Edgebaston spread in the Simonsberg region. These Pinot Noir babies were hauled in. From the coastway. Faure, Stellenbosch. And Bot River. Both sites, on average 4km from the sea.
The snazzy label stopped the traffic outside Caf+¬ Dijon in the heart of Stellenbosch last week. Inside it was presented. Uncorked. Splashed in the glass?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-+?-+. Ah, it remains a privilege to get first bite at a producer’s latest work. Like being allowed to have the first cast at a shoal of yellowtail on a crisp autumn morning.
Huddled around the bottle, the usual boyish banter stopped for a moment. The first whiffs of a good Pinot Noir tend to do this.
Or was it the colour? Cloaked in a Gevrey-Chambertin hue of wet purple and runny mulberry syrup, the wine is rich on the eye. Holding the glass against the noon light spilling in from the window, the wine’s darkness would not allow me to see the thighs of the young student walking outside the window.
A young wine. Bottled fairly recently, the nose tighter than a Cape Wine/Vindaba tender document. Some hard notes were being thrown out from the glass, lumpy tannin but with a lot of juice.
These aromas subdued over the next few minutes, replaced with a perfume neither rich nor heady, but floral and colourful. Brisk. Flowing.
The gulp was big and tasty. Slightly chilled, the immediate impression was one of freshness. And clarity. Uncluttered. Pure.
No farmyard or mown hay. No mushroom or truffle or any of those sensual aromas horny scribes enjoy labelling Pinot Noir with.
This was clean and unmasked. Bright berries reflecting austere, minimalist and modern lines. A samurai sword-like grace ,in the lean length.
But this wine is not only new as in a new brand under a new label.
A new style? Possibly. Who knows what aromas and flavours are going to be set free after the wine has been in the bottle for a year or three?
But currently, as is, the wine has a clean power, a freshness, a beautiful unfettered and interesting look about it.
Because this wine has been allowed to be what it wants to be: Pure and Pinot Noir. As made in South Africa. And oh yes, we can.